A community newspaper for the Jicarita watershed, including the
Rio Mora, Rio Santa Barbara, Rio de las Trampas, Rio Pueblo, & Rio Embudo
Puntos de Vista By Estevan Arellano, Director of the Oñate Center
Members of the New Mexico Acequia Association (NMAA) from all over the state came together recently in Santa Fe for a two-day meeting to discuss issues concerning the social, political, cultural, and economic values of our acequia system. In a freewheeling roundtable forum on the first day, parciantes discussed private rights versus communal responsibilities, instream flow, current attempts by the State Engineer's Office to change various water policies, land grant claims, and adjudication procedures. A common theme throughout the discussion was the acknowledgement that all efforts to seek transfers or change the existing status of water rights are essentially a threat to the viability and health of northern New Mexico rural communities.
Pat Quintana, New Mexico State legislative liaison, and Debbie Hughes, of the Association of Soil and Water Conservency Districts, both stressed that the NMAA and its members begin to prepare now for the next 60-day legislative session, which will undoubtedly be considering bills that will attempt to rewrite New Mexico water law. They offered their agencies' help in establishing review committees to interpret these bills. David Benavides, of Northern New Mexico Legal Services, explained that 1907 New Mexico water law basically provides for sound water management practices because it reflected the needs of the native people who at that time dominated the society. He added that these state statutes, however, cannot overrule laws established by previous treaties, such as the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.
A discussion then ensued regarding initiatives like the those advocated by the Western Water Policy Review Advisory Commission that are attempting to redefine the beneficial use of water as "highest and best use," meaning that which has the highest economic value. The intrinsic values of rural communities that the acequia system supports are being "commodified", or valued only for their economic significance. The NMAA must play a role in identifying these intrinsic values as well as helping to define the concepts of public welfare and water conservation. John Carangelo, a parciante from La Joya, explained how the Intel water protest case has raised the issue that the welfare of a third party, in this case the people of New Mexico, must be considered, above and beyond the concerns of the buyer and seller of water rights.
Chellis Glendinning, who is currently writing a book dealing with global corporatization, initiated a conversation as to how we in New Mexico, in the face of increasing federal and corporate control, can work most effectively. Parciantes felt a two-pronged approach would be best: to work at the state level to protect existing water law and clarify issues like public welfare and beneficial use, and to work on the local level on regional water plans that recognize the autonomy of traditional "water courses" or watersheds.To be effective, these regional water plans must prohibit the transfer of rights from one region to another. Everyone felt that although current water law allows individual water rights owners to sell these rights, we must work towards a more traditionally communal way of governing water through programs like water conservation or banking, which would retain unused water within the acequia or community that could be used for the benefit of all the parciantes. David Lujan of Tonantzin Land Institute added that nothing precludes parciantes from making a communal declaration in the adjudication process and then assigning water rights to individuals.
Nicasio Romero, president of the NMAA, brought those present up to date on the latest initiative to pass instream flow regulations. Several New Mexico senators wrote a letter to the Attorney General (AG) asking whether "instream flow" could be legally considered a beneficial use of water. Members of the NMAA appeared at the AG's office and recommended that the AG postpone rendering an opinion until the NMAA has time to determine the most effective strategy for acequias to make sure any instream flow initiative involves its input and and protects the rights of acequia users.
By Estevan Arellano, Director of the Oñate Center
November 19th will mark four years that I started working at the Oñate Center in Alcalde. In that time period there have been many changes in the environmental, social, and political landscape of northern New Mexico, and the Center has been involved in several issues that have affected the lives of the nuevomexicanos.
When I first started working at the Center it was very awkward and strange, being that the Center was a project of the old patrón system, and also because Don Juan de Oñate was not the most admired and liked historical person in northern New Mexico. Several people told me I had to be crazy to take such a politically hot position, especially with the County of Río Arriba, while others encouraged me that it was a once in a lifetime opportunity. For me it was something I felt qualified for, not only because of my educational background but more so because of my roots.
As a native of Embudo, with my roots going back to the Archuletas and Martín Serranos on my mother's side (from the first wave of migration in 1598 during Oñate's entrada), and on my father's side to the fifth and last migration under Spain in 1695, I feel very much rooted to "el norte." Also, on my father's side, my great-grandmother María de la Luz (who lived to a ripe old age of 103 years) was an Apache and my grandmother Perfilia was from Picuris, making me as much a descendent of the Americas as of the Iberian peninsula. The Arellanos and Archuletas are both from "el país Vasco," or the Basque region.
As a child growing up in Embudo I had heard my tío Luis Archuleta talk about "la guerra de los americanos contra los mexicanos, la batalla del Embudo," but like most kids, it went in one ear and out the other. It was not until the early '70s when I was involved with La Academia de la Nueva Raza in Dixon that all this history my uncle had been drilling into us made sense. But due to the lack of resources and space, most of this knowledge that we were gathering from the community as "oral history" remained dormant, though we did publish Entre Verde y Seco and issued five Cuadernos (de vez en cuando), among other fliers.
It was not until I became director of the Oñate Center that I realized that a lot of the dreams we had since our days with La Academia (current County Manager Lorenzo Valdez was also an Academia asociado at that time) could now be realized. First and foremost we had a beautiful facility, plus a small budget in order to make the dream a reality.
But before that dream could be realized the Center had to be made livable, that is, the walls and mortar were complete but that was all. Not even the electrical outlets were working since no wire had been run through the conduits. The building was completely empty, not even a paper clip could be found, much less a desk or a typewriter (computer). The place was desolate and I was the only staff.
So from ground zero the Center had to be given an alma y corazón. Then to top it off, the politics of Río Arriba County had to be dealt with, not so much the current administration, but the old regime who thought they had been cheated out of a magnificent new building. Then the person who was the pro ject director while the Center was being built sued the County because I had been hired.He claimed that I was not qualified to be Center director, and he was, because he was Irish with a PhD in Argentine history.
But I wasn't distracted by the politics surrounding the Center and finally on April 30, 1994 the Center was opened to the public, and what a success it was. It was on April 30, 1598 when Oñate claimed "la Nueva México" for the Crown of Spain. Over 1,000 people people attended the opening ceremonies and the Center was on its way. It proved that the people in northern New Mexico were hungry for cultural events, especially the Indo-hispano population who had never had a place to call their own. Soon after we opened, people from throughout the Southwest started dropping in or calling for information. And the more people who came by the Center, or called, the more tidbits of information about the history of the Río Arriba bioregion emerged.
A man from Denver, an Apodaca, called wanting to know if there were any Apodacas left in the village of Apodaca in the Embudo land grant. Though there haven't been any Apodacas in the Embudo area since I can remember, he shared the knowledge he had about a "brazo del Camino Real," the Apodaca Trail. It so happens that the Apodaca Trail cuts right through the middle of the proposed Summo Mine between Dixon and Picuris. Therefore, that area has cultural and historical value, especially in view of the fact that the Camino Real is being proposed as the first international trail by both Mexico and the United States.
And invariably, almost every conversation I would have with viejitos, "el tratado de Guadalupe Hidalgo" almost always came up, especially in regards to the mercedes, or land grants, and water. People like Uvaldo Velasquez from Youngsville, whose wife was from Apodaca, would always refer back to the "tratado." To the people of northern New Mexico, the "tratado" is the most important document in our struggle to establish our identity and lay claim to our history.
Another document that is very important in terms of recouping our history is "Las leyes de las indias," compiled in 1681, which is simply an update of the "Ordenanzas" of King Felipe II of 1573. This document set the foundation for the settlement of "las tierras de las indias," or New Spain, among them "la Nueva México."
The Laws of the Indies and the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo are possibly two of the most important documents in understanding the history of New Mexico and the western United States, and all nuevomexicanos should become well versed in the contents and historical context of these two documents. These are the cornerstones of our history and culture.
Therefore, the role of the Oñate Center has been to focus on these two documents, among others, and examine them in detail so that the lay person can understand them. What has happened is that these documents and the knowledge they contain has become the province of intellectuals and scholars who gather in obscure places and pontificate to each other, but none of that knowledge gets to the community where it's needed.
The role of the Center, then, has become one of attempting to "democratize knowledge," to quote sociologist Dr. Tomás Atencio from UNM, in order to educate the acequia parciante from Embudo or La Loma, the mercenario (land grant heir) from Antón Chico to Tierra Amarilla.
As a result of workshops held at the Center with regards to water rights; the presentation of historical topics of interest to the nuevomexicanos such as the "conversos," or Crypto Jews; on genealogy; numerous poetry reading by Chicanos, Mexicanos, and Españoles; art exhibits; theater presentations; and countless other activities, the Land Grant Forum was born.
The Land Grant Forum came about due to the frustration that people have been feeling for the past 149 years in terms of the land grant issue not being resolved. Those people that came together, among them Roberto Mondragón, Max Córdova, Juan Sanchez, and many more, felt that this might be the last time that the issue concerning the land grants might get national attention, if done correctly. That is, approach the question of the land grants by getting legislation introduced to resolve the issue once and for all.
Democrats, who have been in control of the political machine in northern New Mexico, have only paid lip service to the issue of the land grants and water rights. Neither Dennis Chavez, Joe Montoya, or Bill Richardson&emdash;all hispanos&emdash;had the guts to stand up for their people and try to see justice done in terms of the land grants.
In fact, our ex-patrón at one point when referring to the loss of land in Río Arriba, supposedly said, "Yeah, they stole the land but it was done legally." I have no idea what he was alluding to. Bill Richardson, after 14 years as a congressman, attempted to introduce legislation concerning the land grants this past January when he was on his way to become UN Ambassador. But that only came about after prodding from the Land Grant Forum, and also because if he ever decides to run for political office (like governor) he can at least say, "Well, I introduced the first bill concerning the land grants . . . but . . ."
Now that conservative Bill Redmond, who replaced Richardson as congressman, kept his promise that his first piece of legislation would deal with the land grant issue and the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, everyone has been caught off guard and doesn't know how to respond. All I can say is that liberal democrats (especially our hispano elected officials) had their chance for decades to do something for their constituents and they did nothing.
Now even the Greens have jumped onto center stage, also criticizing the Republican for having the cajones (or guts) to stand up for the people who were deprived of their rights when the U. S. government failed to honor the treaty, following the "Intervención Americana," as the Mexican American war is known in Mexico. Liberals, it seems, prefer to have the hispanos on welfare and food stamps while they keep the land for the Sam Hitts of the world and the recreation industry.
What the U. S. did to Mexico in 1846 was similar to what Iraq did to Kuwait in 1990, invading its weaker neighbor to the south. Only the Saddam Hussein of 1846 lived in the White House.
Out of the Land Grant Forum (there's now a Río de Abajo Chapter in the Albuquerque area) evolved another idea, first incubated at the Oñate Center: the commemoration of the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. This idea, first brought forward by community activist Antonio "Ike" DeVargas in 1995 (the Río Arriba County Commission adopted a resolution to commemorate the "tratado" in October of '95), has mushroomed, and in 1998 the Sesquicentenario of the "tratado" will be observed the first weekend of February at the Oñate Center with cultural activities.
The Center is working closely with Mayor Debbie Jaramillo's Office of Intercultural Affairs and its Director Celina Rael de Garcia and her staff in making this a momentous occasion. The recent New Mexico Hispanic Folk Music Awards presentations were also a direct result of this collaboration between the two entities.
This year the seminars dealing with the history and its legacy will take place at the Sweeney Convention Center in Santa Fe, where up to 1,200 can attend the presentations. Some of the presentations will also take place in Albuquerque in conjunction with the Hispanic Cultural Center. Both Director Ron Vigil and Michael Miller of the HCC have worked very closely with the Oñate Center over the past two years. At present we have a $52,000 grant from HCC and the Cuarto Centenario Committee to translate and publish a book on agriculture written in 1513 by Gabriel Alonso de Herrera, Obra de Agricultura, in 1998. Translators are already working on the text and I'll be writing an introduction on the convergence of the Mediterranean and Mesoamerican agri-cultures in "la Nueva México" in 1598. We also work very closely with the Center for Regional Studies at UNM.
A new era in government and community relations has begun: Agencies such as the Los Alamos National Laboratory (and its subcontractors); the Bureau of Land Management; the Forest Service and the National Park Service, who for years have been seen as enemies of the local hispano communities by activists, are now working together, due to dedicated people such as trucheña Joyce Fierro, coordinator of the BLM's International Program, Ramón Olivas, chief of the National Park Service US/Mexico Affairs Office at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, and Liddie Martinez, director of Community and Economic Development for Protection Technology of Los Alamos.
Instead of the community always dealing with "white males," now finally there are hispanos in positions of power in these agencies that have totally different perspectives, and how they relate to the community is changing. Also, the Board of County Commissioners of Río Arriba County (Chairman Alfredo Montoya, Commissioners Ray Tafoya and Moises Morales) has never interfered in the day to day activities of the Center, and this is a breath of fresh air. The only thing I am hoping for is that our meager $16,000 budget for programming could be increased. I know Río Arriba is no Santa Fe, so it's not as if we want $500,000 for the Cuarto Centenario or $100,000 for the "tratado" activities like our southern neighbor.But we hope for at least a more reasonable and realistic budget for the number of activities planned for 1998. Therefore, to make up for the lack of budget, the staff has had to become more creative and innovative in establishing "networks" and "partnerships" that extend to Mexico (Insituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, Universidad Autonoma de México in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua and Durango) and across the Atlantic to Spain (La Casa de America).
It has been, then, through the "partnerships" we have established with BLM, the National Park Service and PTLA that we will be able to bring the IV Coloquio Internacional del Camino Real de Tierra Adentro to the Center in July of '98. Also, as a result of these contacts, we were invited to the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities conference in Phoenix (November 17-20, 1998).
This conference, cosponsored by the U. S. Department of the Interior (BLM and NPS), the U. S. Department of Agriculture (Forest Service and Natural Resources Conservation Service), the Environmental Protection Agency, and Arizona State University, is the Second International Conference on Natural Resources and Cultural Heritage. Five local students from Northern New Mexico Community College will be attending as a result of the initiatives of the Center. Río Arriba County officials will make three presentations as well.
A recent trip to the III Coloquio Internacional del Camino Real de Tierra Adentro in Durango, Mexico, was also a result of the collaborative efforts with the above agencies, and the efforts of the Oñate staff (especially Joyce Guerin).
In less than four years the Center has gone from a $1.2 million pink elephant with locked doors to a place that is not only known locally but now also statewide, regionally, and even internationally.
What we have at the Center (though we might not have a PhD. in Argentine history), is alma and corazón: no higher education or multiple degrees can give that to an individual. While we may at times be seen as mavericks, what we have accomplished so far is to extend the playing field from the sandlots of Río Arriba to the national and international arenas when it comes to promoting the arts, culture, and history of the area. And this is only the beginning!
Finally we are moving forward on the Chamisal Reuse Center. It took over a year to get through all the politics and paperwork, but we have finally begun construction on the foundation. It will be up to the weather whether we can finish this fall.
This is a community project and will be a place for all of us to leave off (and to find) good usable clothes, household items, lumber, etc., at the Chamisal Transfer Station. However, it will only work if the community who uses it helps keep it together. But that is future. At this point we are having trouble finding people who are willing to help build it. We have enough money for materials but if we have to pay for labor, too, we may come up short. Alan Siegel is donating his time&emdash;too much of it, so if anyone can pitch in and help him it would be greatly appreciated. It can count as community service.
Materials would also be greatly appreciated. Since it is for reused things, we would like to build it with as much reused material as possible. We still need angle iron, lumber, beams, stucco wire, nails, etc. Please contact Alan Siegel at 587-2200 if you can help.
Also, November 15 is supposed to be America Recycles Day. It would be a good time for the County to begin collecting recyclables at the transfer stations. What is stopping them now that we have a recycling yard? Call the County and ask when? why not now? 758-8834 Jean Nichols PACA Solid Waste Recycling Committee
The Camino Real District of Carson National Forest is asking for public comment, as part of its Collaborative Stewardship program, regarding management of a 25-acre ponderosa pine stand in the Amole Canyon area. For information regarding what the Forest Service would like to do in this project you can contact District Ranger Crockett Dumas at 758-6236. Written comments regarding how you would like to see this area managed will be accepted until November 21. The address is: Camino Real Ranger District, P. O. Box 68, Peñasco, NM 87553.
Tomás Montoya was presented the Conservation Farmer of the Year award from the Taos Soil and Water Conservation District on November 7. Montoya was recognized for his commitment to ranching and farming throughout his entire life in the small community of El Valle near Peñasco.
By Kay Matthews
On June 4, 1997, a full-page ad appeared in both The New York Times and The Santa Fe New Mexican entitled "Zero Cut." The ad, which called for a ban on all commercial logging on public lands (and solicited funds for Forest Guardians), was signed by a handful of national environmental groups including Earth Island Institute, the Constitution Law Foundation, Protect Our Public Lands, and Rethink Paper (a project of Earth Island Institute). Conspicuously absent was the Sierra Club, which a year before had passed a national referendum to end commercial logging (less than 7% of the membership voted for the ban). David Orr, Sierra Club Chair of the No Commercial Logging Task Force, referred La Jicarita questions regarding the Club's failure to sign the ad to Charlotte Talberth, President of the Board of Directors of Forest Guardians. According to Talberth, who was the contact for the ad on behalf of Forest Guardians, the two groups collectively decided that they "could get more bang for the buck by running the grassroots ad first and having the Sierra Club run C4 political ads in support of Rep. Cynthia McKinney's National Forest Protection and Restoration Act. . . . The strategy throughout has been that there be two parallel campaigns, Sierra Club and grassroots, to amplify each other." (The McKinney bill, introduced on October 31, calls for an end to commercial logging on all national forest and other federal public lands. The bill would leave intact firewood collection and "other traditional personal uses of the forest." It also calls for a National Heritage Restoration Corps to restore federal forest lands to their natural condition and redirect logging subsidies to provide funds for worker retraining.)
But according to Bruce Hamilton of the national Sierra Club conservation staff, the reason the Sierra Club did not sign the ad was because there was disagreement over the wording. The Sierra Club felt that calling the ad "Zero Cut" would raise a red flag that might compromise the intent of the initiative, which is to ban commercial industrialized logging on public lands. Using the words "Zero Cut" could give the wrong impression that the Club was opposed to cutting personal firewood or "cutting one's own Christmas tree." The Sierra Club will run its own ad in the New York Times to support McKinney's bill.
Hamilton admitted that even its own more carefully worded initiative has raised controversy within the rank and file of the Sierra Club. While Hamilton stated that members who disagree with the logging ban "should not be allowed to speak for the Sierra Club", the national organization has authorized chapters to formulate their own forest management strategies based on local needs and politics.
The Santa Fe Group of the Sierra Club is one of the local groups that has refused to support the ban. Courtney White, Executive Committee Member and Chair of the Conservation Committee of the Santa Fe Group, wrote several editorials in the Rio Grande Sierran explaining his reservations concerning the ban. In his column called "The Uneasy Chair" White pointed out that if "we kill off rural communities" it is the developers, not "wildlife and other agents of biodiversity" that will step in to fill the vacuum. He chastised the membership that a no-logging policy is "elitist" and destroys the Club's credibility to effect change and improvement of activities on public lands.
As a result, David Orr sent out a message on the Club's listserve attacking White and calling for censure: "I call on the ExCom [Executive Committee] to take steps to bring the Rio Grande Sierran in line with national club policy. And I call on the ExCom to issue a formal apology in the next issue. This is an absolute disgrace, and all those who were elected to represent the members of the Rio Grande chapter [parent of the Santa Fe Group] should be ashamed of yourselves. It's time to stop printing Wise Use rhetoric in Sierra Club publications." Hamilton told La Jicarita that he felt Orr overstepped his bounds in calling for the censure of the Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club, but reiterated that the national organization will continue to push for an end to all commercial logging, even if this policy fails to differentiate between corporate and small, locally based logging.
Chellis Glendinning, who is on the advisory board of Earth Island Institute, was surprised when she saw that the Institute had signed onto the ad and immediately lodged a complaint with the organization. "I wrote to Earth Island and asked how it could take a public position&emdash;zero cut&emdash;that is insensitive to the basic questions of environmental justice," Glendinning said. "How could this organization, whose board of directors president is Carl Anthony, the African-American director of Urban Habitat, and whose board also includes people like Vandana Shiva, who has always worked for environmental justice, defend two conflicting policies?" Others within the organization also expressed their disagreement with this public position, and an internal conflict full of racist overtones erupted.
Chad Hanson, Co-Director (along with David Orr) of the John Muir Project, a project of Earth Island Institute, wrote a letter to Earth Island's board of directors, dated October 10, in which he stated that northern New Mexico is being deforested under the guise of environmental justice and that Carl Anthony has been taken in by this "ruse" and has made racial attacks against Hanson and other people at Earth Island Institute. He also falsely accused Ike DeVargas and other members of La Companía of physically assaulting environmental activists. Hanson then went on to assure the board that he is not a racist: "I don't have a racist bone in my body . . . Yet I have been the victim of racial prejudice by the President of Earth Island Institute . . . because I happen to have been born with a distinct lack of pigment in my skin." Hanson, along with Emily Miggins of Rethink Paper, an Earth Island Project, also wrote a letter claiming that Glendinning has a financial interest in La Companía Ocho and accusing her of being a wise use member. No valid documentation was provided to support these claims, and Glendinning and Anthony, both involved in social activism since the civil rights movement, deny the allegations.
In an attempt to address this conflict within Earth Island Institute, a group of board members and advisors formed a committee to address the issue of environmental justice. In a mission statement presented to the board of directors they wrote: "Environmental justice is a philosophy and a practice that acknowledges both the ecological destruction wreaked upon the planet by mass technological societies and also the horrific social injustices&emdash;including racism, sexism, and economic inequities&emdash;that stem from the very same systems. In today's corporate global economy, the vanguard of environmentalism becomes not just the conservation of pure wilderness against the thrust of human civilization: it becomes the fostering of human survival through non-racist, non-sexist, economically equitable community living in direct and sustainable relationship to the Earth."
Urban Habitat hosted a group of northern New Mexico community representatives and organized a demonstration at the November 6th hearings before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, where Forest Guardians argued to further enjoin logging and grazing in Region Three. In a statement by Urban Habitat called "Fight the Corporate Destruction of Public Lands, Not Land-Based Communities," the group asked, "Why should we care about the struggles in New Mexico? Because decisions are being made here in the Bay Area without including the very people most affected."
The latest national environmental group to become embroiled in these issues is the Wilderness Society. Charles Wilkinson, a well-known author and University of Colorado law professor, who is on the Board of Directors of the Wilderness Society, signed on as co-counsel for La Companía at the November court hearings in San Francisco (La Companía was allowed to appear as a "Friend of the Court"). Explaining his action, Wilkinson was quoted as saying "I wanted to give the Hispanics some support, and, damn it, they deserve it. We in the environmental community are the ones who need to address this." When contacted by the Associated Press, the national office of the Wilderness Society stated that there were no plans to censure or remove Wilkinson for his actions.
Controversy surrounding zero cut initiatives is being played out in an international arena as well. In a July 27 letter to the New York Times, Ralph Schmidt, Director of Forest Programs at the United Nations, wrote to support the Brazilian government's decision to open the Amazon rain forest to selective timbering, pointing out that efforts by environmental groups to completely shut-down logging oversimplifies the issue: "Harvesting forests for economic and social benefit does not necessarily equate to destroying them." He lauded the government for acknowledging that forest management was the only sustainable and economically productive option for most of the Amazon, and that it could support millions of poor people who survive by using forest resources. In a voice that could have been speaking to the situation in New Mexico he said: "These efforts [of the government] are more promising for forest conservation than a simplistic protection policy which is futile in areas of overwhelming poverty."
Because emotions are running high and rumors are running rampant, the Rio Pueblo/Rio Embudo Watershed Protection Coalition would like to clarify its position on the Sipapu water transfer protest. In order to do this, the background of the case must first be outlined.
On February 6, 1995 Carson National Forest Supervisor Leonard Lucero approved the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the proposed Sipapu Ski Area expansion. That document authorized an expansion which increased the ski area's overall size more than 5 times from 185 to 977 acres; expanded its skiable terrain more than 6 times from 34 to 220 acres (186 acres of clearcut); more than doubled the number of skiers allowed at one time from 910 to 1,850; double its wastewater treatment demand from 17,900 gallons per day (gpd) to 34,364 gpd (1,064 gpd for the newly proposed restaurant on Forest Service land and 33, 300 gpd for the main wastewater treatment facility); and more than doubled its diversion of water for snowmaking from the Rio Pueblo from 17 to 38 acre feet per year (afy). Members of the Coalition felt this represented an enormous increase over the present facility, and many watershed residents felt that the FEIS did not do an adequate job of evaluating the potential impacts of the proposed expansion on the forest, the river, and the watershed communities.
The Coalition therefore appealed this decision on May 8, 1995, and shortly thereafter Forest Supervisor Lucero withdrew the Record of Decision. While the Coalition was, and continues to be, concerned about the many diverse physical and social impacts of the proposed expansion, Lucero's decision addressed two issues: 1) the inadequate evaluation of impacts to cultural and historical properties; and 2) water issues including the inadequate evaluation of impacts on the river and riparian areas and whether the owners of the ski area did in fact hold valid water rights. The cultural and historic properties issues is currently being addressed by members of Picuris Pueblo, the Forest Service, and owners of the ski area. Lucero, however, felt it was the job of the State Engineer's Office (SEO) to address the water issues.
In its appeal of the FEIS water-related issues, the Coalition noted many problems and inconsistencies:
1. The FEIS purports to analyze the impact of 37.8 afy diversion for snowmaking on the hydrology and fisheries in the Rio Pueblo. With respect to hydrology, the FEIS determined that the diversion would reduce the winter's water level up to 5.6% during snowmaking operations. The FEIS then concluded that this reduction "would not be enough to have a significant impact on the Rio Pueblo's hydrology." The FEIS did not provide any further explanation for this conclusion, cite any studies or analyzes in the project record supporting the conclusion, nor state what reduction would have a significant impact. The fisheries analysis similarly concludes that flow fluctuations during snowmaking would have no affect on overwintering fish.
2. The FEIS erroneously assumed that Sipapu Ski Area owned sufficient water rights to support domestic, commercial, and snowmaking uses. On November 10 and December 8 1994, the SEO ordered the Sipapu Ski Area to cease and desist diversions of water from the Rio Pueblo for snowmaking. The SEO based its order on a finding that the ski area did not hold a valid permit to appropriate water for this use and questioned whether the ski area had valid water rights to transfer.3. Assuming that the ski area was authorized to divert water from the Rio Pueblo, the FEIS significantly underestimated the quantity of water that would be diverted under the expansion proposal. The FEIS analyzed impacts on the river based on 37.8 afy for snowmaking. However, the ski area submitted an application to the SEO to divert 55afy from the river for snowmaking. This represents an increase of 17.2 afy or nearly 50%. In addition, the FEIS failed to account for a declared amount of 67.8 afy from the spring and well for domestic and commercial uses. SEO file records indicate that the spring and well are surface water diversions. Thus the actual diversion from the Rio Pueblo will be 122.8 afy, an increase of 85 afy or nearly 225% more than estimated in the FEIS. The FEIS failed to analyze the impact of this increased diversion on winter water levels.
4. The FEIS completely failed to analyze the ski area's summer water use. In noting that the consumptive use of snowmaking is low (a fact which the Coalition also disputes) and that the snowmelt would be released to the stream in the spring and early summer, the FEIS acknowledged that the ski area diversion may affect senior downstream water rights. Moreover, the FEIS acknowledged that the diversion will reduce winter stream levels. Yet the summer is the season when stream levels are especially critical: irrigation demand is high, water supply is low. The FEIS is silent on the ski area's water use in the summer, when that use will have the most significant and adverse affect on senior irrigation rights, instream flow requirements for fisheries, and the stream's ability to assimilate pollutants.
Based upon these findings, the Coalition felt it had no recourse but to appeal the ski area's application before the SEO. After lodging this protest, Coalition members worked for over a year with ski area owners to try to hammer out a compromise that would address these concerns and still allow the ski area owners to to expand their operation. In fact, Coalition members repeatedly told ski area owners that they would prefer to compromise rather than go to a hearing. In response to ski area owners' request for a compromise proposal, Coalition members submitted a 10-point proposal (see August issue of La Jicarita) which addressed their concerns while still allowing a significant expansion of ski area facilities. Coalition members also told ski area owners that they were willing to discuss modifying the compromise proposal and invited them to either suggest modifications or make a compromise proposal of their own. However, on May 27, 1997 the Coalition received a letter from the president of the ski area stating that he felt chances for working out a compromise "seem slim" and he felt " . . . we should move forward for a hearing and resolve with the State Engineer's Office. "Coalition members therefore felt they had done everything in their power to resolve this issue without going to a hearing.
A hearing before the SEO will resolve both the issues of the validity of the ski area owners' water rights and whether such a diversion will significantly impair downstream water users and/or be contrary to sound water conservation and public welfare. This review would have taken place regardless of the Coalition's protest, just as any water transfer application must be reviewed by the SEO. The Coalition's protest simply allows the Coalition to participate in the process. The ultimate resolution of this issue will significantly affect all watershed residents and surface water rights holders in particular. The hearing concerning the validity of the ski area's water rights is scheduled for March 4.
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